The Gamecocks picked up four first-place votes among the coaches and 59 points in the balloting. Veteran-laden Southeast Missouri was picked second, with Tennessee Tech a point back.
There was a big separation after that, with Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Murray State, Austin Peay, Morehead State and UT Martin completing the predicted order of finish.
“It’s a great compliment to our program,” JSU coach Jim Case said. “If you look at it on paper and what we did lose, it’d be hard to figure (being the favorite), but at the same time it’s a great compliment to our program.”
Curiously, despite being picked as the conference favorite, the Gamecocks didn’t have anyone on the preseason All-OVC team. They will have to replace their top five hitters.
“We lost some guys who honestly are not replaceable,” Case said. “I don’t think you can replace them one-on-one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t replace them. It may take a team effort to replace them.
“If we’re picked No. 1 and don’t have anyone on the preseason team, obviously it’s going to be a team effort.”
Tennessee Tech senior All-American outfielder Chad Oberacker was named OVC Preseason Player of the Year while Eastern Illinois junior right-hander Mike Hoekstra was tabbed OVC Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Oberacker hit .452 last year – third nationally – while Hoekstra walked only five batters in 67 innings last season and had a 4.16 ERA.
Read more in Wednesday’s edition of The Star.